Dave Ferguson of Nuro

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Dave Ferguson, the co-founder of Nuro, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Nuro – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Jiajun Zhu and I founded Nuro to bring the benefits of robotics into everyday reality for everyday people. In our work, we saw an opportunity to make roads safer, and democratize local commerce through the delivery of goods. Focusing on driverless delivery rather than passenger vehicles also allowed us to deploy our technology with safer approaches than those that need to balance passenger comfort with road safety.

To do so, we set out to build a new class of vehicle, designed purely for transporting things instead of people. A self-driving vehicle, but not just a driver-less vehicle – a driver-less and passenger-less vehicle, purpose-built for goods delivery. We were convinced that such a class of vehicle had the potential to be safer than passenger vehicles: more nimble, narrower, and better able to prioritize the well-being of other road users. And by building such a vehicle, we could also lower vehicle cost, improve the customer experience, and accelerate autonomous technology deployment by solving problems jointly through both hardware and software development.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

There have certainly been some regulatory challenges, as many of our laws were obviously not written taking into account self-driving vehicles. However, with the latest exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, they have demonstrated that they are committed to public safety, and recognize that safety and innovation can advance together and that they will act to address regulations that stand in the way.

What does the future hold for Nuro?

Our plan is to scale up our deliveries at city scale, beginning with our ongoing operations with multiple partners in Houston, TX. We’re actively partnered with Kroger, Walmart, and Domino’s, and have ongoing conversions with additional partners that we hope to announce in the near future.

We were also recently granted a driverless testing permit from the State of California. When we announced this, our Chief Legal and Policy Officer, David Estrada, shared an apt note on the future of Nuro: “Putting our driverless R2 delivery vehicles on the road in California will be an important first for our company and the self-driving industry. But it is just a glimmer of what is to come.”.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Red Whittaker, one of my favorite professors at CMU, used to say “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” It’s something I reflect on frequently; how we choose to spend our limited time and resources is one of the most important decisions we ever make. I also love that embedded in that phrase is Red’s classic optimism: Don’t ever underestimate your ability to accomplish bold goals.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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